Fourth estate in peril, looks for redeemers
Media is the reflection of our society and it depicts what and how society works.
Media is the reflection of our society and it depicts what and how society works. Media, whether it is print, electronic or the web is the only medium, which helps in making people informed. It also helps in entertaining the public, educate and make people aware of the current happenings. Media is supposed to be the voice of our society.
There is a variety of media platform that has stimulated the thoughts of the young generation and other sections of our society. This was the story till yesterday.
Now if the fast-paced developments that are taking place in the country are any indication, it is clear that the media is moving away from its role at a rapid pace.
The unfortunate aspect is that neither the executive nor the administrative wing nor judicial wings are focusing on this aspect. Even the so-called fourth estate, which was once the most powerful watchdog has now started wagging its tail. We appear to be cutting the branches on which we are sitting.
The mainstream media needs to blame itself as it has allowed social media to set agenda and is following it rather than taking the lead in setting the agenda for the social media.
Social media is intended to bring different people from different geographical area on one platform and share their emotions, exchange ideas and information. Instead of utilising the medium to discuss wide range of subjects or topics related to the society, we are seeing how it is being misused.
The mainstream media whether it is the print or electronic which should be responsible to the society, unfortunately is picking it up and playing it up adding more masala to it probably with an eye on improving their ratings or readership.
While the variety of social media platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc have brought the world closer, every social media user has become a source of news without any responsibility.
Then why is the mainstream media following the social media? The reasons are many. The fact is that print and electronic media industry is facing structural decline.
The revenue numbers present a scary story. When this was the situation when economy was in a healthy state, imagine what would be the situation when economy has slowed down. Obviously, situation would be much worse.
This is not the only reason for the media to be worried about. What is more serious issue is the credibility of newspapers or television channels. Till early 1990's, the executive, the administration as well as the politicians used to take the media seriously.
The media representatives were respected, and the governments used to act on the reports that used to appear in the newspapers or in electronic media. But now a situation has arisen where things have drifted and there is a serious dent in the credibility of media. Some analysts may differ with this observation but then a spade is a spade.
In the past, despite having personal likes or dislikes for any political party, the media representatives used to be unbiased in presentation of the news.
But today the media is painted in different colours. Perhaps the numbers are more than the colours that are seen in a rainbow. While some national channels and newspapers are branded as saffron media, in Telugu States certain newspapers and channels are branded as Yellow Media, saffron media or useless media.
Who is to be blamed for that? The media too needs to take the blame. Journalists who are supposed to be neutral in their stand when it comes to reporting have started taking sides and have become vociferous campaigners of those parties.
Things did not stop there. They are even accepting various posts offered by the governments and are dictating terms to the media.
This is where the media started losing its ground. The media pollution began as many politicians felt that it was not difficult to bring media under their control.
They also felt that media could be a tool to confuse people and started launching newspapers and TV channels and news got transformed into views and the media was converted into an instrument to indulge in vindictive politics.
Another twist in media crept in when the political parties or leaders who own newspapers or channels came to power. The rules and guidelines framed by the executive are given a go by and now things have reached a level where the Prime Minister's Office and the Chief Minister's Office are deciding as to who should get advertisements.
The criteria followed by them is loyalty to the party in power and not circulation figures or the reach of that media or the guidelines in vogue. If an official or a leader feels offended by some news, the authorities indulge in arm twisting tactics and stop advertisements. This problem is being faced by all categories of media including the big and very big players in the industry.
This new trend has resulted in the media losing its independence and their courage is getting buried. The situation is that executive has assumed power to file cases against those who point out the drawbacks in society.
While all governments indulge in lip service about the importance of media and the need for freedom to highlight the drawbacks in administration and the problems faced by the people, no government is willing to accept any such thing in practice.
Once the media has allowed itself to get tamed whatever the reason be, the executive started pushing its agenda based on the whims and fancies of those in power.
There are recent instances where certain Bills which need amendment to Central laws are being passed in State Assemblies and are being sent to the Union government for approval. This leaves the common man wondering if administration is moving in reverse gear.
This certainly is not a good sign. India's fourth estate is staring at imminent danger and would be left gasping for breath.
If we don't wake up and change, the sunset of Indian newspapers is not far away and people will be left wondering, "Hey Ram," is this the Independence for which the people sacrificed their lives and got freedom from colonial rule.